Britain’s domestic security service and police did not miss opportunities to prevent the London Bridge terror attack in June 2017 in which eight people died, the chief coroner of England and Wales has concluded.
But Judge Mark Lucraft QC criticised the lack of security measures on the bridge, which he called “particularly vulnerable to a terrorist attack”, when he delivered his findings on Friday following an eight-week inquest into the deaths of the victims of the attacks.
The attack was carried out by three men — Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba. They first drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, killing Xavier Thomas, 45, and Christine Archibald, 30. The three men then began stabbing people in Borough Market, killing six others. Forty-eight people were injured.
Police shot dead the three terrorists 10 minutes after the attack began.
In reference to the lack of protective security on the bridge, Judge Lucraft said “there were weaknesses in systems for assessing the need for such measures on the bridge”. The inquest had heard that the City of London Police counter terrorism security adviser, PC Matthew Hone, repeatedly warned months before the attack of the risks to London Bridge because of the lack of barriers.
The inquest had explored concerns about whether MI5 and the police had missed vital opportunities to prevent the attacks, particularly since the intelligence service was actively investigating Butt at the time.
Gareth Patterson QC, barrister representing six of the victims’ families, had argued that the security service had missed “opportunities galore” to detect planning for the attacks.
Judge Lucraft said he was not persuaded that MI5 had overlooked investigative opportunities which could have saved the lives of those who died. He said he found the pre-attack investigations of MI5 and counterterror police were “generally thorough and rigorous”.
The coroner was also critical of Butt’s family, whom he said were aware of his extremist views but failed to report him to the authorities. His brother Saad Butt “did very little, if anything, to accurately monitor his brother’s movements,” he said.
Witnesses from MI5 and the police defended their record to the inquest. DCI Wayne Jolley, attached to the Metropolitan Police counter terrorism command, told the inquest he did not agree that opportunities had been missed to target the men and said police had been working with the intelligence they had.
One senior MI5 officer, known as Witness L, told the inquest from behind a screen that the security service had received an anonymous tip-off about Butt, seen as the leader of the attack, but the intelligence got lost in its database. A tip off by Butt’s brother-in-law Usman Darr to a police anti-terror hotline in September 2015 was processed but never passed on to investigators and another call to MI5 by an unidentified caller in mid-2015 was not followed up, the inquest heard.
As well as Thomas and Archibald, the other victims who died were Sebastian Belanger, 36; James McMullan, 32; Alexandre Pigeard, 26; Kirsty Boden, 28; Ignacio Echeverria Miralles de Imperial, 39; and Sara Zelenak, 21.
The coroner concluded all eight were unlawfully killed.
Helen Boniface, lawyer at Hogan Lovells, representing families of six victims, said: “This was clearly planned as a two-stage attack. Had barriers been in place on London Bridge, they firmly believe this attack would not have taken place here at all and their loved ones would still be here today.”
Christine Delcros, partner of Xavier Thomas, said the lack of barriers was “just one of a catalogue of failings”. “I believe this attack was preventable,” she said in a statement.